Okay, this crisis in Iraq caused by ISIS with the current highlight being the beheading of American journalist James Foley is just too much! I’ve been following the story in Iraq with concerned interest for a while and after watching the emotional rescue of some 20 Iraqi Yazidis from the mountains I was determined to write a post about it. Today I woke up to see the breaking news of the beheading and it has made me very sad.
Just in case you don’t know, ISIS is also known as ISIL, or The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. It is a predominantly Sunni jihadist group, seeking to sow civil unrest in Iraq and the Levant (region spanning from southern Turkey to Egypt and including Syria, Lebanon, Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan) with the aim of establishing a caliphate — a single, transnational Islamic state based on sharia.
The group began over two decades ago as a fervid fantasy in the mind of a Jordanian named Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Since then , it has grown to become a militant group that has even fallen out of the good graces of al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda has become more conscious of avoiding acts of indiscriminate or counter-productive brutality since the demise of Osama Bin Laden, but ISIS revels in it, adopting a religious philosophy so uncompromising it appears almost nihilistic. To enforce their philosophy, floggings, mutilations, beheadings and crucifixions are being employed.
They have gone on an endless killing spree of anyone who is not part of their movement – from political personalities to security forces and Muslims who are not like-minded as they are. The targets can be well-chosen or arbitrary, but no one is spared – Shia opponents, Sunni rivals, captured soldiers or “immoral” women.
ISIS operates as a half-mafia-style commercial enterprise, half pious international charity, looking for wealthy donors in the Gulf States and throughout the globe. In 2012 ISIS took over oil fields in Syria, reaping profits from selling the oil at discounted prices to anyone willing to pay. It has traded in the raw materials in areas it has captured, and even dabbled in selling antiques from monuments under its control.
I have my own little experience of religious crises but it is certainly minute compared to what others in my country and indeed in Iraq are currently facing. I can only but imagine the terror these people are going through – not being able to worship freely, not being able to enjoy life without the threat and possibility of being killed in the most gruesome way possible.
This crises brings to mind many things. My thoughts and prayers go out to every Christian, non-Muslim and even Muslim in Iraq who is being forced to live under the threat of death. I salute every journalist or pressman who has a choice to report some of these stories from a point of safety but decides not to, for the sake of reporting the factual truth. My sympathies go out to James Foley’s family and friends, as well as others whose families have been victims of an unreasonable cause such as religious intolerance. With all these in mind, I am grateful for life, as imperfect as it may seem.
Revelation 6:9 (KJV)
And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held…